There are four Cicchetti restaurants globally, two in London – a stone’s throw away from one another, one in Covent Garden and the other on Regent Street – both easily identified by their beautifully dressed windows, one in Manchester and one, quite surprisingly, in Bangkok, and last week, I visited the Covent Garden restaurant.
Cicchetti (pronounced chi-KET-tee) is one of seven Italian restaurant brands belonging to the San Carlo group, the others, San Carlo, Fumo, Bottega, Signor Sassi, Fiorentina and Flying Pizza, which can be found scattered across the UK, and the Middle East. My brother lives in Birmingham (the unsung British city of food… trust me) and I’ve visited the Fumo there a number of times, the food is always fantastic, so I was pretty excited to see what Cicchetti had to offer and how it was different.
Firstly, let me explain how both Cicchetti and Fumo work; they’re Italian small plate restaurants – Cicchetti is in fact named after Venetian sharing plates and side dishes – with their roots deep in traditional Sicilian cuisine. Instead of ordering a starter, and a main, much like in tapas restaurants you order a range of dishes, which arrive quickly, and sporadically (because everything is made to order), and if, after the first round, you want a few more dishes, you simply order more.
At Chicchetti the small plates range from £4-10, with most ‘main’ plates at roughly £7. And there are plenty of options for vegetarians, particularly vegetarian pastas, on both their standard and specials menus. I ordered an exquisite tomato bruschetta to start, followed by an immodestly-sized bowl of mushroom and truffle linguine, with zucchini fries and a mozzerella piadana – a type of Italian flat bread, not too dissimilar to a small calzone – to share. My carnivorous dining guests, opted for the Italian mixed grill, an impressive sharing platter of steak, a pin-wheel of Italian sausage, Parma ham, grilled aubergine, flat breads and salad.
Although San Carlo group claims that each of their restaurant branches “displays its own unique style in food due to the individuality of our creative chefs and management”, I noticed very little difference between the menus of Fumo and Cicchetti. However, I won’t complain, both menus are extensive, and in my experience the food at both restaurants is fresh and authentically Italian.
To accompany our meal, we ordered two bottles of Grillo, a white wine we discovered in Sicily this summer, and one which you don’t usually see on wine lists. The wine was fantastic, reasonably priced and a nod to the restaurant’s Sicilian roots.
To finish, what else but the beautiful Tiramisu (pictured above), which comes with a tiny shot of Marsala.
All in all, my experience at Cicchetti was a fantastic one, and I would highly recommend a visit to both Cicchetti or Fumo restaurants, and I am excited to visit other San Carlo group restaurants and further investigate the differences between them. If you plan on visiting the Covent Garden branch of Cicchetti, I highly recommend booking well in advance. The restaurant is very small, and space for diners is limited.